McDowell leads group vowing to oppose Seanad abolition

A campaign to save the Seanad, involving a number of prominent historians, academics and political personalities, will be launched today, promising to strongly oppose the Government’s “populist” proposal to abolish the Upper House.

The former justice minister Michael McDowell as well as historian, Diarmaid Ferriter, and chair of the National Gallery, Olive Braiden, are among those involved in Democracy Matters — which describes itself as “an independent, broad-based group from across Irish society”.

It will be chaired by political scientist Dr Gary Murphy, who writes below that abolishing the Seanad would not amount to political reform but rather a “cull to a vital aspect of our constitutional democracy”.

The abolition of the Seanad was promised in the Programme for Government and a referendum is expected to take place on Oct 24. The wording of the question to be put to voters and a public information campaign will be published before the Dáil summer break.

The electorate will be asked a straight yes or no to the proposition and will not be offered an alternative proposal on reforming the chamber.

Dr Murphy said at least 75 amendments to the Constitution will be required if the people vote to abolish the Seanad in what he describes as a “misguided” referendum.

Democracy Matters says it is seeking “real and radical reform” of the Seanad that will “promote greater equality, transparency and accountability across our entire political system”. The group will include members from the Seanad Reform Group established in early 2012 by senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone, former tánaiste Michael McDowell, former senator Joe O’Toole, and barrister and journalist Noel Whelan. Mr McDowell promised the group would launch a “serious and prolific campaign in every constituency in the country” to oppose the abolition in the referendum which he said was taking place for “superficial and populist” motives. Fianna Fáil will also campaign against the proposal. The legal profession are expected to oppose it.


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